Create a Pollinator Habitat to Help Feed Honey Bees and Conserve Our Wild Pollinators
Animal and insect pollinators are essential to pollination in over 75% of the world’s flowering plants, which includes roughly 35 percent of the world’s crops. Honey bees and certain wild bees are beneficial insects, providing crop pollination services for numerous fruits, nuts, berries, melons and squash. Other animal and insect pollinators include bees, moths, flies, bats, birds, ants, butterflies, wasps and beetles. Some of these native pollinators have declined in numbers, become endangered or even gone extinct due to the loss of natural food supplies and pollinator habitat. A habitat is where a pollinator lives and reproduces. As a result, pollinator conservation was made an important part of the 2008 Farm Bill. This bill provides support for research and makes pollinator habitat conservation a priority for land owners, land managers and conservationists.
The 2014 Farm Bill includes amendments that provide continued support for the pollinator protection provisions and directs the USDA to encourage farmers to protect pollinator habitat as part of voluntary conservation plans. These changes will benefit both managed pollinators such as honey bees as well as wild pollinators across the U.S. Applewood Seed Company can provide seed mixes for NRCS practices such as CP42 that promote pollinator habitat. Please contact us for recommendations for your project.
Local governments, private businesses, and homeowners can plant a pollinator garden in urban environments to help bees and other pollinators. Research has shown that city parks, urban green spaces, golf courses, commercial landscapes and home gardens can provide essential floral resources and habitats for a diverse group of pollinators. A pollinator garden should include nesting sites as well as desirable flowers, and it is important to keep the area protected from ground disturbance and pesticides that are harmful to insects. Most wild bees are ground nesters, and tilling or excessive digging will destroy their nests, eggs and larvae. Setting aside or creating a sunny, open piece of ground will encourage ground nesters to take up residence. Some bees nest in wood or twigs, and providing these resources in your pollinator habitat will encourage them to make permanent homes there. The Xerces Society website has many resources to help you develop and maintain a pollinator habitat.
Honey Bee Pollination Services
Honey bees don’t just produce wax and honey – they provide valuable crop pollination services for many agricultural crops. Honey bees are not native to the U.S. – they originally came from Europe and were brought over by early colonists. Honey bee colonies have long been managed by beekeepers to provide honey bee pollination services for crops as well as for honey production. The list of crops that benefit from honey bee pollination is endless – alfalfa, almonds, apples, berries, canola, clovers, peaches, peppers, squash, sunflower oil, watermelons and many more.
Native Bees and Pollination: Keystone Species in the Ecosystem
According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, there are over 4,000 species of bees in the U.S. alone. Native bees are the most predominant pollinators of flowering plants in nature, thus contributing a vital service to the ecosystem. Because of this important role, bees are referred to as “keystone species”. Without native bees, many of our native plant populations would decline, impacting other organisms that are dependent on them for food and shelter.
Native Bee Habitat
There was a time when native bees and wild honey bees performed all of a farmer’s pollination needs because of the presence of natural areas nearby. These natural areas provided nesting sites, food and protection for the bees. Because of the way agricultural landscapes are developed today, there is often a lack of native bee habitat and forage near farms. Techniques to encourage native bees to live in your area are simple to implement. These can be applied on farms, in commercial landscapes and in home gardens.
We have compiled a list of pollinator resources for more information on honey bees and native pollinators. These include information on pollinator habitat, bee identification, and crop pollination.